Asthma sufferers were initially confused by Boris Johnson’s latest briefing, where he said vulnerable groups will be asked to stay at home for 12 weeks.
“In a few days time, by this coming weekend it will be necessary to go further and to ensure that those with the most serious health conditions are largely shielded from social contact for around 12-weeks,” he said on 16 March.
“This advice about avoiding all social contact is particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions.”
What does this mean for those who suffer from asthma – given that 5.4 million people in the UK live with the condition?
Do you have to self-isolate if you have asthma?
After Boris Johnson’s briefing, the government shared guidance on social distancing and clarified which groups were “at risk”. Those at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 included those with chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, the guidance stated.
Currently, the advice for at-risk groups is to “be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures”. This refers the prime minister’s announcement, that the British public should stop “non-essential contact with others”, in which he warned against visiting pubs, clubs, cinemas and theatres.
It’s likely that Johnson will soon announce it’s necessary for those who are vulnerable – including those with asthma – to go one step further and shield themselves from social contact for 12 weeks. HuffPost UK will update this article with any new guidance.
Asthma UK advises it’s worth thinking ahead and taking steps to reduce contact with others, for example by avoiding crowded spaces. “It would be a good idea for people with long-term lung conditions – including asthma – to start thinking about how they would manage in this situation,” the charity said.
“Examples might include discussing arrangements to work from home with your employer. At the moment, this is not the guidance for people with lung conditions, but it is wise to prepare for what may happen next.”
You should also make plans to help you cope if the spread of the virus causes significant disruption, or if you are asked to self-isolate, the charity states.
This might include making sure you know how you would get your medicines, food and other essential items if you had to self-isolate, and thinking about how you would stay in touch with friends and family.
How does coronavirus affect those with asthma?
When people with asthma get respiratory infections, it can set off their asthma symptoms, national charity Asthma UK says. Sufferers should continue to reduce risk of asthma symptoms by:
Keep taking their preventer inhaler (usually brown) daily as prescribed. This will help cut risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.
Carry their reliever inhaler (usually blue) with them every day in case they feel their asthma symptoms flaring up.
Download and use an asthma action plan to help them recognise and manage asthma symptoms when they come on.
What to do if your asthma gets worse
If your asthma is getting worse and you have symptoms of Covid-19, use the 111 online service or call 111. Don’t go to your doctor’s surgery. When you contact 111, let them know that you have asthma and that you’re getting asthma symptoms. Explain how often you are using your reliever inhaler and if it’s not working completely or lasting for four hours.
If your asthma is getting worse and you don’t have symptoms of Covid-19, make an urgent appointment to see your GP.